Agent Casey Close sues radio host over Freddy Freeman allegation

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NEW YORK — Freddy Freeman’s former agent and his company sued a radio host for libel, alleging Doug Gottlieb falsely claimed Casey Close never informed the first baseman of the Atlanta Braves’ last contract offer.

Close and Excel Sports Management filed the suit in U.S. District Court in Manhattan, alleging defamation by libel. They accused Gottlieb of “false, disparaging and derogatory” comments in a tweet they claimed was made “in a grossly irresponsible manner without due consideration for the standards of information gathering and dissemination ordinarily followed by responsible parties.”

The 58-year-old Close is a principal of Excel and one of three managing partners. He has represented several hundred baseball players, including Hall of Famer Derek Jeter.

Gottlieb, 46, is affiliated with Fox Sports, the Pac-12 Network and CBS Sports, according to the suit.

“Although we gave Mr. Gottlieb an opportunity to retract his false statement, he failed to do so,” Close said in a statement. “The complaint sets the record straight as to what occurred during the negotiations with the Atlanta Braves.”

Fox did not immediately respond to a request for comment, and the studio number listed for Gottlieb at the Fox Sports Radio Network rang unanswered.

The suit alleges Close has received death threats from people he believes to be Braves fans.

Close said in the suit that the Braves on March 29, 2021, offered Freeman a $110 million, five-year deal starting in 2022, then made a $125 million, five-year proposal on Aug. 1 and a $135 million proposal on Aug. 4, all rejected by Freeman.

Close said he and the Braves had their final two conversations about a Freeman contract this March 12 and he made two proposals to the team that day that were rejected. Close said he asked the team if it had any offer he could present Freeman and was told the team did not.

Close said he immediately informed Freeman of all conversations with the Braves on March 12.

Atlanta announced on March 14 it had acquired first baseman Matt Olson from Oakland, signaling the team no longer was attempting to retain Freeman. On March 17, Freeman signed a $162 million, six-year contract with the Dodgers.

On June 29, Gottlieb tweeted: “Casey Close never told Freddie Freeman about the Braves final offer, that is why Freeman fired him. He found out in Atlanta this weekend. It isn’t that rare to have happen in MLB, but it happened — Close knew Freddie would have taken the ATL deal.”

Freeman received his World Series ring on June 24 before his first game with the Dodgers in Atlanta, and Close said Freeman terminated him as his designated player agent several days later.

Close and Excel said Gottlieb had not complied with their demand to retract the comments in his tweet.

 

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.